Have any war criminals ever been not guilty?


I’ve been watching old WWII films and modern news as well and whenever somebody is a warcriminal and is caught it seems they are always found guilty. Are there any ex war criminals that have been found not guilty? , I’m getting cynical about it being proper not just a show trial.People I’ve spoken to online often say it is just a show trial and the verdict is usually decided before the trial and there is no hope for the person charged. Anybody any thoughts?.

Franz Von Papen, Hjalmar Schecht, and Hans Fritzsche were all acquited at Nuremberg.

Anyone ever found innocent in a war crimes trial?

In Nuremberg, there were 3 people found innnocent.

I wouldn’t be too cynical. Leaving aside the trials at the end of WWII, and considering only modern news stories, we are looking at cases where the trial is the culmination of many years of detective work and possibly years of extradition proceedings (except in cases where the defendant is simply kidnapped from foreign soil). My point is that there may be a very large amount of evidence of guilt accumulated before the trial begins.
So I would say that the reason the defendants have (nearly) always been found guilty is because they are guilty.

None of this is to prejudge any current or future trials, of course.

I seem to recall at least one recent Yugoslav defendant being acquitted.

With regards to the Nuremberg trials, several of those convicted were hanged, while others got jail time. That apparently upset Stalin, who had assumed they would all be convicted and hanged.

For a good glimpse into war crimes trials and their aftermath, read Spandau: The
Secret Diaries
by Albert Speer.

While many are tried, and many acquitted, of minor crimes, generally people are not charged with war crimes until an extensive level of investigation that goes far beyond what is involved in researching a Breaking and Entering charge has been conducted. So the innocent are far less likely to be charged with a war crime than those who might be charged with a more mundane crime.

That’s not to say, however, that political expediency plays no part - I just can’t say how much of a part it plays. Albert Speer, for example, was not a Polish-hating, Jew-hating monster, but he definitely contributed to the efficacy of the wartime economy of Nazi Germany with a knowledge of what his efforts might be inflicting on those ethnic/national groups. He let whatever moral judgements he might have made be subsumed by a career and there was no way he was gonna walk.

But he was a cut under Goering and the like (I know Goering beat the hangman, but he did get the sentence).

In a round of war crimes trials following the Nuremburg trials, 35 of 185 defendants (a mixture of military firgures, industrialists, physicians and SS) were acquitted.

Actually, all of the war criminals were innocent, just ask them.

Were they found innocent or not guilty? There’s a difference, you know. Being found innocent means guilt is presumed, whereas being found not guilty means innocence is presumed.

So which is it?

Well, the quote in the linked page says that those three were acquitted of all charges, which I believe means that they were found innocent. And the page that the quote comes from says “not guilty”. Nothing about whether guilt or innocence is presumed.

I wonder… a while back, the Japanese rounded up members of Aum Shinrikyo in connection to the sarin gas attack in Tokyo. If I remember correctly, they were held without a formal charge while prosecutors developed the case.

I remember reading that government prosecutors have an absolutely phenominal conviction rating–like in the high nintieth percentiles. Those they could not prosecute were expected to be let go without formal charges levied against them.

Do I see a connection here? Is that why so few people accused of war crimes are acquitted? And does today’s Japanese justice system have some connection to the 1946 International Military Tribunal for the Far East?

Speer got a lesser sentence because he did not appear to be as much of a monster as Goering et al and because he was not wildly defiant like Goering. But his crimes were every bit as disgusting. Hundreds of thousands died as slaves under the supervision of Speer.

As for Goering “beating” the hangman, he didn’t beat the rap, and killing himself didn’t remove any of his guilt. I would think that after all these years that would conclude that dead is dead and he had no moral victory in its method. I’ve mentioned in other threads the importance of Goerings defense of Nazisim at his trial: he articulated it well, but compared to the crimes he was justifiying with it, history has ignored him except for scholars who read the transcripts.

How about that guy from the U.S. I can’t remember his name, but I remember something along the lines of Ivan the Terrible. Didn’t he turn out to be innocent? (And a good warning that you have to be very careful when dealing with 50 year old memories. My memory is that everyone was very honest in this case; that the poor sap just kinda looked like some schmuck from long, long ago.)


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for: war crimes
Document No. 21 of 35

Wednesday, October 24, 2001
Three convictions for war crimes set aside

The Hague – In a landmark ruling yesterday, a United Nations appeals court quashed the convictions of three Bosnian Croatians for taking part in a 1993 attack on Bosnian Muslim villagers that left 116 people dead. Brothers Zoran and Mirjan Kupreskic and their cousin, Vlatko Kupreskic, saw their convictions for crimes against humanity overturned because evidence against them was inadequate to support conviction. It was the first time the appeals court has overturned a conviction by the war-crimes tribunal.

For what it’s worth, none of the 28 defendants at the Tokyo War Crime trials was acquitted, although two died before being sentenced and one was found mentally unfit to stand trial.

Not true. Perhaps the most famous counterexample is Nazi slavemaster Albert Speer, who was tried alongside the likes of Hess and Goering at Nuremburg. Speer admitted guilt not only for the specific crimes he committed, but also claimed that the upper echelons of the Nazi party, including himself, were collectively responsible for the crimes of Hitler. IIRC some of the lower-profile defendants in subsequent Nuremburg trials also admitted culpability.

John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian who had emigrated to the US, was acquitted of the specific charges related to actions by the Treblinka prison-camp guard nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” when ID cards from the Soviet records showed him to be someone else. However, the investigation did show that Demjanjuk had been a guard at other German-run prison camps, although apparently he hadn’t committed war crimes, and that he had lied about that on his naturalization application. His US citizenship was revoked and he was deported to Ukraine anyway.

Personally I always like to think that instead of hanging like a criminal he was poisoned like a rat.(Poetic justice there.) The one thing I always hated about that war crime stuff was it seemed that the biggest pusher for it, Stalin, was in my mind guilty of some of the same stuff as the Nazi’s.

It’s immensely helpful to be on the winning side.